Bad Jews at Theatre Royal Haymarket
Returning to London after popular demand, the critically acclaimed Bad Jews explodes onto the stage at Theatre Royal Haymarket fuelled by what must have been a potent cocktail of caffeine to maintain such a high-energy, frenetic show.
The first hour is a carefree comedy that explores with subtlety the bigger issues facing the preservation of culture and religion within the global community of modern society. It opens on the grandchildren of a beloved grandfather and holocaust survivor who have gathered after his death to mourn whilst pugnaciously dissecting their familial relationships. It pairs witty and original writing from Joshua Harmon with skillful acting which at times reduces the audience to tears with laughter.
Unfortunately the rest of this play is a 40-minute argument between the characters – at a prolonged shouting tempo – over the motivation for the upkeep of Judaism that is more akin to a university lecture than engaging dialogue.
There are times when the originality of Harmon’s comic writing, paired with the patience it must have taken director Michael Longhurst to create the fight scenes and absorbing character progression, produces moments of genius. The kind of genius that sees Ilan Goodman deliver lines likening his character Liam’s dislike of cousin Daphna (Ailsa Joy) powerful enough to melt the skin from his body. Both Goodman and Joy, whose characters are two sides of the same coin, give incredible physicality to their performances. This is brilliantly balanced by the more subtle roles of long-suffering brother Jonah (Jos Slovick) and Liam’s good-natured yet ditzy girlfriend Melody (Antonia Kinlay). Kinlay’s rendition of Summertime, founded by a loose understanding of operatic prowess, is unforgettable.
If the calibre of acting was not enough, the set – a fully-fledged hotel apartment with working PlayStation, stocked fridge and the mess of cramming three families into one room – immerses the audience into the argumentative yet humorous world of a modern Jewish generation.
Righteousness has had a “Sandy from Grease“–style makeover, and it is greatly appreciated.
Photo: Nobby Clark
Bad Jews is on at Theatre Royal Haymarket from 8th February until 16th March 2016. Book your tickets here.